De­spite an on­slaught from Asia, Ford took hon­ours at the first ma­jor mo­tor show of the year, writes Paul Gover in Detroit

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Detroit shows off -

THE Kore­ans starred, the Ja­panese mounted a come­back, and One Ford hit the head­lines with an ex­tended fam­ily of Fo­cus-based new­com­ers that are cer­tain to make a big hit in Aus­tralia.

But it was one car and the com­mit­ment of its com­pany chief that made the most im­pact as Amer­ica fought back on the open­ing day of the 2011 North Amer­i­can In­ter­na­tional Mo­tor Show.

Ford is post­ing huge prof­its and knows where it is go­ing with ev­ery­thing from the Fo­cus to the com­ing Es­cape and Ex­plorer, and Gen­eral Mo­tors has trimmed for growth as well as pre­view­ing the Ba­rina sedan and a cou­ple of classy Amer­i­can hope­fuls in mo­town on Mon­day morn­ing.

But when Chrysler chief Olivier Fran­cois got up to in­tro­duce the new 300C he talked openly about a com­pany, and an in­dus­try, that is pulling it­self up off the ropes to an­swer the bell for fu­ture sales.

‘‘It’s time for Chrysler to come back on to the au­to­mo­tive stage like this,’’ Fran­cois says.

‘‘It’s time for a car that makes a bold state­ment with­out say­ing a word. It’s time for the torch of the most awarded car to be passed. And we did this with only one ob­jec­tive — to make it even bet­ter.’’

Chrysler says it spent more than $1 bil­lion on the im­pres­sive look­ing 300C and it’s the stand­out Amer­i­can car at this year’s show.

But there is, as al­ways, a lot more to see and un­der­stand.

When Hyundai turns the spot­light on its new Veloster and the Curb con­cept it gets a pre­dictable re­ac­tion, but then it also talks rein­vent­ing the brand in the US.

Then Kia, which is us­ing a cou­ple of months of ex­tra lead time on all the joint mod­els it shares with Hyundai to do a bet­ter job, rolls out the ad­ven­tur­ous KV7 con­cept.

The com­bined im­pact is great news for buy­ers but an aw­ful ef­fort for Ja­panese car­mak­ers, since Korea is now do­ing a bet­ter job of Ja­panese-style ve­hi­cles and in­clud­ing the emo­tion that’s missing from con­tenders from the other coun­try.

Honda does its best in Detroit by pre­view­ing the new Civic con­cept — it’s ba­si­cally the pro­duc­tion car and far more punchy than the un­der­done CRZ hy­brid— but it could be too lit­tle too late for Ja­pan, since Toy­ota has noth­ing new and Nis­san is not at the show.

And BYD of China makes a splash as well, al­though its cars are early-Korean stan­dard when you get up close.

Detroit has plenty of eye candy, from the race-bred Porsche 918 RSR to the plug-in elec­tric SLS in safety vest yel­low on the Mercedes-Benz stand and the huge se­lec­tion of Boss 302 Mus­tangs on the Ford stand.

It seems ev­ery car­maker also has some form of plug-in elec­tric car, hy­brid or al­ter­na­tive en­ergy ve­hi­cle, from the hy­brid RSR on down.

But the com­pany with the sin­gle most im­pres­sive ex­hibit, once you drill down a bit, is Ford.

Is is us­ing the all-new Fo­cus as the base to show what can be done in a One Ford world where spin-offs from a ba­sic plat­form sat­isfy just about ev­ery show­room shop­per.

There is ev­ery­thing from an al­l­elec­tric Fo­cus bat­tery car to a hy­brid, a C-Max mini peo­ple mover, the re­place­ment for the Es­cape and more.

‘‘There are 10 dif­fer­ent mod­els, top hats, off the one plat­form. All on the one pro­duc­tion line,’’ Ford CEO Alan Mu­lally says.

‘‘Henry Ford, in 1925, ad­ver­tised open­ing the high­ways to all mankind. Mak­ing it af­ford­able. We’re ac­cel­er­at­ing Henry’s orig­i­nal vi­sion.’’

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